We're not even down to the final 12 yet, but already someone has been booted from American Idol.
Northern California native Donnie Williams, who was scheduled to compete next week for one of the six remaining spots in the finalist lineup, has been dropped from the show after being arrested on Monday on suspicion of driving under the influence.
Williams, 20, was stopped when he allegedly drove, at 100 mph, past a police car on Interstate 680. Police declined to release his blood alcohol level, but confirmed it was above the legal limit (though it was not high enough to warrant jail time under local law).
"You're ruining my life!" Williams reportedly told the arresting officers.
The AI wannabe, who also told police he was on his way home from a party celebrating his AI status, was released without being booked. But the brouhaha left Fox weary of yet another legal hassle with a contestant, and on Thursday, the network confirmed that Williams is out.
"While understanding that Donnie has not been convicted of a crime, the producers and network feel that the nature of the charges against him warrant his disqualification," said Fox, which earlier removed Williams photo from the official Idol Website. "We wish Donnie the best during what must be a difficult time, and once these issues have been resolved, he is welcome to try out for the show again next season."
Replacing Williams in next week's semifinal sing-off: 22-year-old Oklahoman George Huff, best remembered as the tall dude who donned a hat to try to shed the "mature" (i.e. too old to be a pop idol) image the judges slapped on him in the early rounds of competition.
Huff and seven others will vie for a spot alongside previously selected finalists Amy Adams, Fantasia Barrino, Diana DeGarmo, LaToya London, Matthew Rogers and Camile Velasco.
Williams isn't the first AI performer idled for bad behavior. The network removed another contender from the contest before the season premiered. The Times-Herald newspaper in Vellejo, California, reported that 24-year-old Kelee Bordeaux, who received a thumbs-up to move on to the next round when she auditioned for judges in San Francisco, was quickly called by show producers and told she was being dropped from the contest because "something had surfaced from her past."
Bordeaux told the newspaper that producers failed to elaborate, but that she suspected her suspension stemmed from a prior conviction for assaulting a police officer. The supermarket clerk told the paper she had disclosed the incident on her application for the show, but producers nixed her anyway.
Fox certainly must be hoping that this will be the last of the public legal entanglements to mar the show, which has seen its share of mini scandals even before season three's competition kicked off.
Last season, eventual Broadway star Frenchie Davis was bounced from the show after producers learned she had posed for an adult Website, Corey Clark and Jaered Andrews were sent packing after it was revealed that each of them had been arrested on assault charges, and top 10 finalist Trenyce Cobbins was saved from the chopping block only because she alerted producers about a past theft charge against her.
Meanwhile, American Idol producers are busily trying to round-up a slew of celebrity judges to help keep the top-rated show's 27 million weekly viewers riveted to the competition.
Following guest judge visits by Lionel Richie, Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight, Neil Sedaka, Olivia Newton-John and Robin Gibb last season, sources say producers' wish list for celeb judges this season includes Paul McCartney, Elton John, John Mayer, Stevie Wonder, Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey, and Barry Manilow.
Yep, there's nothing like a visit from Uncle Barry to get the young'uns to tune in.